The Influence of Gender on the Dimensions of Communication

Filipinos, even in this millennial century, still hold certain attitudes that pertain to Gender communication. Many of these attitudes are the product of our colonization, attitudes that persist even when the rest of the world is changing. These attitudes are considered traditions, a part of our culture.

Men think they should be “macho” in language and action. They use assertive words and expect to be understood. On the other hand, women are expected to be non-confrontational in their language, especially with men. They are supposed to talk only about certain topics that are within the world of women. But today, the Verbal and Nonverbal Dimensions of Communication of men and women are hardly constrained by such attitudes. Women can be loud and assertive like comedian and political activist Juana Change, who does not mince her words when it comes to politics. On the other hand, men can talk about their feelings, even cry like Christian pop singer Gary Valenciano.

Written messages by Filipino women are supposed to be indirect and circuitous. That may well have been true in the days of Maria Clara. Now, with access to mass media and social media—both as reader and writer—Filipino women write beyond what was once thought to be safe topics for women. Instead of being soft-spoken, they now speak with a directness exemplified by superstar Nora Aunor when she talked of Flor Contemplation, the Filipino nanny executed in Singapore, whom she played in a movie. In fact, the assertiveness in the language of Filipino women is matched only by the assertive delivery of women like Monique Wilson, an actress, and champion of One Billion Rising.

How does one dress for and talk during a job interview? Men may get away with wearing denims to a job interview but, in many cases, women are expected to don corporate attire. We call everyone by their nicknames, even the President of the Philippines. Everyone we meet and talk to is either an Ate or a Kuya. In many cases, a female teacher rather than a male teacher will be the choice of students when disclosing their problems, because students probably feel that female teachers are more sympathetic. Westerners are more picky about who they want to be close to. They are quite informal and easygoing with friends, while formal and reserved with others. Working in a job for years does not necessarily allow you to call the male boss of the company by their first name. Of course, there are some Western bosses, male and female, who like the informality of having their employees call them by their first name. Here, teachers are addressed as “Miss” or “Mrs.” even if their first names are used. Male bosses in the Philippines are usually addressed by their three initials such as “MVP” for Manny V. Pangilinan, Chairman of Smart Communications; and “JZA” for Jaime Zobel de Ayala, Chairman Emeritus of the Ayala Group of Companies.

Filipinos love to smile, and do smile a lot. However, the smiles may express different emotions, not just happiness. A student smiling during an exam may make the teacher a think that the exam is easy. On the contrary, the smile may mean nervousness about being able to answer all the questions or not. Again, smiling just as a couple is passing by may be misconstrued. The girl may take offense and her boyfriend may just beat you up. 

It is important to understand the dimensions of communication because this helps in understanding where miscommunication occurs. Whether it is verbal/nonverbal, oral/written, formal/informal, or intentional/ unintentional, communication is effective if the Speaker uses verbal and nonverbal communication efficiently in sending the Message to the Listener. It is also important to remember that culture and gender play an influential role in effective communication.